Santa Clara, which captured its ninth WCC title and advanced to the NCAA Division I quarterfinals last season, brings back eight starters and 19 letterwinners. The Broncos are loaded in midfield with sophomore Stephen McCarthy, the 2006 WCC Co-Freshman of the Year, and senior Peter Lowry, who earned second team All-WCC honors after tying for the team lead with six goals a year ago. Also back is junior goalkeeper Joseph Buttitta, the conference leader with nine shutouts in 2006.
San Francisco, picked to finish second, earned a spot in the 2006 NCAA Tournament for the third straight season. The Dons return seven starters including senior defender Rob Valentino, who was tabbed for WCC Player of the Year honors after anchoring a USF defense that surrendered a conference-low 18 goals last season.
San Diego, picked third, returns midfielder Dustin Guerrero, who tallied four goals and three assists last year, and All-WCC honorable mention defenders Tim Grey and Sam Reeder.
Loyola Marymount and Portland tied for fourth place in the preseason poll. First-team All-WCC midfielder Nick Blanco returns for his senior season at LMU. The Pilots will field one of the most experienced units, led by a pair of All-WCC forwards in junior Alex Elliott and senior Christopher Sanders.
Gonzaga checked in at No. 6 after finishing third in the WCC standings last year, the highest finish for a GU squad since 2001. The Zags will be led by senior forward George Josten, who led the conference in goals for the second straight season with 12 scoring strikes in 2006.
Saint Mary's, which rounds out the poll at No. 7, welcomes back Dylan Leslie, who tied for the team lead with four goals last season.
1. Santa Clara 35 points (5 first-place votes)
2. San Francisco 28 (2)
3. San Diego 20
4. Loyola Marymount 19
4. Portland 19
6. Gonzaga 18
7. Saint Mary's 8